Dante references: Literary Tourism in Marche

Valentina Pagnanini (University of Macerata, Italy)

Today, literary tourism in the Marche Region focuses on the locations mentioned or alluded to by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy. There are eleven historical, geographical and cultural places in the “dolce terra | Latina” [sweet Latian land] (Inf XXVII 26-27) so dear to the great poet, in “quel paese | che siede tra Romagna e quel di Carlo” [the land | That 'twixt Romagna lies and that of Charles”] (Purg V 68-69), affected by Dantean references. 

In Paradise, the text initially refers to the long and wide Tronto river (Par VIII 63), with its winding course, chosen by Dante, which constitutes the geographical border between the Marca Anconitana and the Kingdom of Naples. The poem then introduces his great-great-grandfather Cacciaguida's memory of the ancient and decaying Roman cities of Urbisaglia and Senigallia, one in the province of Macerata and the other in the province of Ancona: “Se tu riguardi Luni e Orbisaglia | come sono ite, e come se ne vanno | di retro ad esse Chiusi e Sinigaglia” [If Luni thou regard, and Urbisaglia, | How they have passed away, and how are passing | Chiusi and Sinigaglia after them] (Par XVI 73-75). 

In Urbisaglia today, visitors can photograph stone inscriptions containing the references to the town in the Divine Comedy outside the famed “Archaeological Park of Urb Salvia”, in front of the Roman ruins and near the amphitheatre. In Senigallia, an epigraph engraved in marble can be found on a wall near Roveresca castle with the quote from Paradise, and here visitors can admire the Renaissance architecture of the structure, both a noble residence and a fortress with military defence functions. 

The journey continues to the Apennines, to the province of Pesaro Urbino. San Pier Damiani describes a silent place, surrounded by nature, intended for prayer and religious worship, the Benedictine monastery of Santa Croce di Fonte Avellana on the slopes of Monte Catria: “e fanno un gibbo che si chiama Catria, | di sotto al quale è consecrato un ermo, | che suole esser disposto a sola latria.” [And form a ridge that Catria is called, | ‘Neath which is consecrate a hermitage | Wont to be dedicated to worship only.”] (Par XXI 109-111). Today, tourists can visit and stay in the Camaldolese abbey, which hosts the “Centro Studi Avellaniti”. The Centre attracts scholars and researchers both for its impressive ancient library with about 20,000 volumes and for the modern library dedicated to Dante Alighieri in 1965 for the seven hundredth anniversary of his birth. Visitors can also participate in the cultural initiatives of the Collegium “Scriptorium Fontis Avellanae”. 

In Purgatory, we see the Montefeltro region, characterised by wide mountainous and hilly territorial boundaries (Marche, Tuscany and Emilia Romagna), with the steep climb up to the majestic and impregnable San Leo Fortress standing on a rocky boulder in a strategic position dominating the Marecchia valley and the landscape below “Vassi in Sanleo e discendesi in Noli” [One climbs Sanleo and descends in Noli] (Purg IV 25). San Leo was incorporated into the province of Rimini in 2009 and was listed in 2017 as one of the most beautiful Italian villages. Montefeltro was an important cultural crossroads and was the birthplace of the valiant Ghibelline captain Bonconte da Montefeltro and the illustrious count Guido da Carpegna (Purg XIV 98). Bonconte died at the Battle of Campaldino “Io fui di Montefeltro, io son Bonconte” [I was of Montefeltro, and am Buonconte] (Purg V 88) and his corpse mysteriously disappeared. Dante mentions Guido as an example of valour and chivalrous virtue. 

Finally, there is the Picene and later Roman coastal city of Fano and its people, mentioned by the Guelf nobleman Jacopo del Cassero, a political representative and military leader born and buried there, who asks Dante to remember him among the people of Fano so that they may pray for him: “che tu mi sie di tuoi prieghi cortese | in Fano, sì che ben per me s’adori” [Thou be so courteous to me of thy prayers | In Fano, that they pray for me devoutly] (Purg V 70-71). 

Nowadays, visitors to the former church of San Domenico, now used as picture-gallery, in the entrance facade can observe the memorial plaque commemorating Jacopo, restored in 2021 for the anniversary of Dante’s death. Jacopo was buried there at the end of the 13th century and is also remembered in the hexameter epitaph of the tomb epigraph.

In Inferno, Dante directly links the biographical events of three characters to the Marche Region, as it is known today. Firstly, the Ghibelline count and captain Guido da Montefeltro – father of the aforementioned Bonconte –, who recalls his origins in the mountains near Urbino “ch’io fui d’i monti là intra Orbino | e ’l giogo di che Tever si diserra” [For I was from the mountains there between | Urbino and the yoke whence Tiber bursts.] (Inf XXVII 29-30), ducal city listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Secondly, the influential and distinguished citizens Guido del Cassero and Angiolello da Carignano are referred to as “the best two of Fano” when Piero da Medicina prophecizes their treacherous killing by drowning locked in sacks: “E fa saper a’ due miglior da Fano, | a messer Guido e anco ad Angiolello, | che, se l’antiveder qui non è vano, | gittati saran fuor di lor vasello | e mazzerati presso a la Cattolica | per tradimento d’un tiranno fello.” [And make it known to the best two of Fano, | To Messer Guido and Angiolello likewise, | That if foreseeing here be not in vain, | Cast over from their vessel shall they be, | And drowned near unto the Cattolica, | By the betrayal of a tyrant fell.] (Inf XXVIII 76-81).

Their murder, premeditated by Malatestino Malatesta lord of Rimini, in the waters of the Adriatic Sea is identified in a reference to the promontory of Fiorenzuola di Focara, nestled in the greenery of the Mount San Bartolo Natural Park, feared by mariners because of wind gusts due to its altitude (187 m.) and precarious position overlooking the sea: “Quel traditor che vede pur con l’uno, | e tien la terra che tale qui meco | vorrebbe di vedere esser digiuno, | farà venirli a parlamento seco; | poi farà sì, ch’al vento di Focara | non sarà lor mestier voto né preco”. [That traitor, who sees only with one eye, | And holds the land, which some one here with me | Would fain be fasting from the vision of, | Will make them come unto a parley with him; | Then will do so, that to Focara’s wind | They will not stand in need of vow or prayer.] (Inf XXVIII 85-90). Dante’s verses are now visible to the visiting tourist, carved both in Focara into the entrance gate to the town, and in Fano in the facade of the former “Palazzo dei da Carignano”. 

The most famous literary tourist attraction is the Malatesta fortress of Gradara, known for the story of Paolo Malatesta and Francesca da Rimini, two lovers who allegedly meet their death in a castle, presumably Gradara: “Amor condusse noi ad una morte | Caina attende chi a vita ci spense.” [Love has conducted us unto one death; | Caina waiteth him who quenched our life!”] (Inf V 106-107). 

The museum has 14 furnished chambers (Torture chamber, Mastio’s room, Sigismondo and Isotta’s room, the Passion room, Malatesta room, Lucrezia Borgia’s Camerino, Lucrezia Borgia’s dressing room, the Sforza Lion room, the Cardinal’s Hall, the Putti room, the Red room, the Council room, Francesca’s bedroom and the room of justice) housing famous works such as the painting Madonna in trono con il Bambino e i Santi Stefano, Sofia, Michele, Giovanni Battista (1484) of Giovanni Santi, and the terracotta Madonna con il Bambino e i Santi Ludovico di Tolosa, Caterina d’Alessandria, Maria Maddalena, Girolamo (1480-90) by Luca della Robbia in the chapel. Francesca’s bedroom displays a reconstruction of Francesca’s four-poster bed, her dress, a lectern and the trap door through which the two lovers tried to escape. 

Various quotes from and poetic references to Dante’s work are presented both inside the castle in a medieval setting and outside, through the village streets, and, in a more contemporary atmosphere, on the ceiling of a nearby restaurant. Any visit to this ancient residence brings Dante’s account to life. 

Finally, two significant points relating to Dante and the Divine Comedy should also be remembered: the poet's exile was decided by Carlo di Valois and Corso Donati in 1301 in the Marche village of Castello Della Pieve; and Antonio da Fermo, who was originally from Marche, was the copyist of the Landian Code 190, the oldest manuscript record found (1336) of the Divine Comedy.

How to cite this dictionary entry: Pagnanini, V. (2023). Dante references: Literary Tourism in Marche. In R. Baleiro, G. Capecchi & J. Arcos-Pumarola (Orgs.). E-Dictionary of Literary Tourism. University for Foreigners of Perugia.

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